Origin of the Corvette Name

by Michael Satterfield

Many people know the Corvette as a motorsports icon or the ultimate Muscle/Sports car, but few know the meaning of the name. We all know that the marketing team over at Chevrolet came up with the name Camaro out of thin air, but the meaning behind Corvette goes quite a bit deeper.

Corvette would be the first mass-produced post-war American sports car, but when General Motors introduced the car to the public as a prototype the production name was still undecided. Turning to their own employees, GM held a contest to name the new car. Out of over 300 submissions, the name suggested by Myron E. Scott would be the winner.

Scott had been working for Chevrolet since 1937, as an assistant director for the Public Relations Department, he was responsible for photography of new cars, designing of press kits, graphics, and special events. He was also known for being the creator of the All-American Soap Box Derby, downhill races for children held across the country.

Myron E. Scott

Myron thought the name Corvette rolled off the tongue well and thought a tie to the fast strike ships called "Corvettes" from World War II would appeal to the American men, many who had served. This would go on to form the foundation for the nautical names that would be applied to Corvettes and concepts such as the Mako Shark and Sting Ray (later to be used as Stingray).

The name Corvette was first used on bu the French Navy in the 1670s. Later these small fast-moving ships would often be used as escorts for larger ships. While they generally were under 100 feet long and only had one gun deck, their maneuverability and speed gave them a unique advantage against the larger ships. Literally, a Corvette could run circles around larger ships and in the era of cannons fast-moving targets were hard to hit. The British would use Corvettes during the colonial incursions into the rivers of the Far-East and Africa, by this time, most Corvettes were steam-powered, making them perfect for patrolling rivers and inland lakes.

Canadian Royal Navy Corvette, circa WWII

The name was revived in World War II when British naval designer William Reed drafted a plan for a small escort/patrol ship. They saw much success as anti-submarine escorts in the Atlantic theater. Later in the war, some Corvettes would be outfitted as minesweepers and saw action in the Pacific and the concept was carried. Corvette ships are still used today, many like the Swedish Navy's HSwMS Visby are modern stealth ships and are used for intelligence gathering, patrol ships, and missile platforms.

Corvette Definition:
cor·vette  /kôrˈvet/
"a small warship designed for convoy escort duty."